How Haileybury is redefining learning through CENTURY
Haileybury is an independent co-educational school, located between London and Cambridge, in 500 acres of beautiful Hertfordshire countryside.
Spectacular grounds are home to outstanding facilities, excellent teaching and superb pastoral care for its community of boarding and day pupils.
With a rich history stretching back to 1862, Haileybury’s vision is to combine the best of the past with the best of the future which includes the use of cutting-edge technology to improve learning.
We sat down with Richard Williams, Director of Studies at Haileybury, to learn more about how CENTURY is enhancing teaching and learning at the school.
What is Haileybury looking to achieve with its use of technology?
Haileybury’s education has deep-seated roots in tradition – but we are also a school that is forward-looking, especially with our use of technology.
We see artificial intelligence as having a massive role to play in education and having looked at the variety of online learning platforms, CENTURY was the only one that we felt truly made full use of AI to promote personalised pupil progress.
How does Haileybury use CENTURY?
We mainly use it to improve independent study time. Working on CENTURY now constitutes a major part of prep. Pupils have two hours of prep every evening and about a third of time is now spent on CENTURY.
Pupils’ usage varies from completing assignments set by teachers to working through their AI-created personalised pathway. CENTURY does a lot of the knowledge-related marking legwork for our teachers, so they can focus on using data to plan next steps. It helps them move their focus towards planning for conceptual understanding and application of skills – both of which are areas best led directly by quality teaching and require as much time as possible.
In Years 10 and 11, teachers use it as they see fit and pupils have access to the whole GCSE content to allow regular retrieval practice in combination with extension. It allows pupils to have something to focus on, even when they claim to have nothing to do. As children do not always know where to begin, CENTURY begins to change that picture.
As we come closer to trial exams and ultimately the Summer series, Year 11 use it as a revision tool as well.
We also run a number of remedial courses on CENTURY to help Sixth Form pupils coming here to study subjects involving maths, such as Design and Technology or Economics, but who may have arrived at Haileybury without a strong enough grasp of a subject. These remedial and revision maths courses particularly help international students who have not benefitted from a solid grounding in science or maths.
We are moving towards onboarding new pupils onto CENTURY in the summer before they join Haileybury, allowing them to do preparatory courses for Sixth Form before they arrive.
This makes sure pupils arrive confident and ready to learn. It also provides our teachers with insights into which pupils may have gaps in their knowledge.
How does CENTURY fit alongside the more traditional methods of teaching?
We will always be a traditional British boarding school – that will not change. It’s what a lot of people come to experience but that doesn’t mean that we need to stand still and use teaching methods from the Dark Ages.
We have always been a forward-thinking school. That is why we were one of the first to fully-integrate AI, particularly with independent work. It is important to say that we do new things solely because they work. If something is going to have a positive impact on pupil progress, if it is going to have a positive impact on teachers, then we will implement it. We do not use AI just to say that we use AI – it just happens that CENTURY is something that we feel will have a big impact.
From the teacher’s perspective, how has CENTURY impacted the classroom?
Many of our teachers use it to inform their planning, particularly by setting nuggets (micro-lessons) on CENTURY. It is changing the way they plan their lessons, as they do not have to teach the absolute basics all the time, because through CENTURY they know whether they’ve been covered and understood already.
Some teachers are starting lessons with CENTURY nuggets to facilitate more of a personalised lesson. Some teachers are using CENTURY nuggets in the last five minutes of a lesson, taking a look at the learning material again and working through it so pupils have something to go away with and work out where they need to review.
What about from a student’s perspective?
The biggest impact for pupils has been outside the classroom, where they feel like they have greater access to support material, all the time. Before, they might feel like they are ploughing a lone furrow, doing work set by teachers and handing it in at the next lesson. But as CENTURY has learning material attached to it, pupils can refer back to the content to prompt them to actually take information forward. It also allows consolidation of work between lessons, increasing the pace at which pupils can make progress with their learning.
Pupils feel like they have a better understanding of what they do and don’t know, being forced to engage with material more regularly and across a wider time range. Rather than relying on the teacher to tell 20 pupils exactly where the gaps are in their knowledge, CENTURY prompts the pupil to start taking more control while also informing the teacher. This improves both the teaching and learning as there is easily-gathered information for both parties to act upon. We find that the more that children engage with it, the more they get out of it.
We are trying to further the academic culture at Haileybury and that has to come from the pupils themselves – CENTURY is an important way of fostering that. If you give pupils the tools to use, then they’re far more likely to foster their own learning. Without those tools, it is very hard to encourage pupils to take control of their learning, as children can understandably struggle to do that. Even if they are the most conscientious, hard-working pupils, it’s not necessarily about how much time they spend working, it is what they are doing that makes the difference. CENTURY gives pupils a stable and familiar system that allows them to always have an opportunity for learning and focus on their own pathway as individuals.
Do any group of pupils in particular tend to benefit from CENTURY?
The lower ability pupils tend to find it hardest to take control of their own learning, so CENTURY is particularly useful at facilitating this for them. Greater metacognition is always beneficial, but when it also improves confidence and engagement with work, pupil progress is unrivalled.
All too often in education, we teach, review and finish a topic and everyone seems on top of it, so on we go to the next topic, without sufficient practice of retrieval and retention. CENTURY plugs the gaps that this perpetual cycle inevitably leads to by throwing content at pupils from six months or a year ago, and they recognise the need to be lifelong learners, rather than simply learning as content is taught.
How have parents received the use of CENTURY?
We wanted to ensure parents understand why we are using CENTURY, so we held digital strategy evenings and invited parents in to talk to us about the platform. We let parents use the system and they understand where it fits and how powerful it can be to support teachers and pupils.
With anything new and different there can be a period where it is not fully understood, but these days people use AI without even knowing it. Once we explained to our parents how and why we are using it, they understood the journey we are on and the advantages of it. As pupils use CENTURY more at home, parents learned just how useful a tool it is to work alongside their teaching.
Is it possible to preserve the traditional, historic ethos of a school like Haileybury when introducing technology into the classroom?
It is important that we hold our ethos and traditions strongly, but we want to remain one of the top independent schools in the country. We cannot stand still in terms of our offer to pupils.
We embrace our history and our vision – and the children are very aware of that. They live and breathe it and are aware they are learning in buildings in which many eminent people were educated. The history and credibility is easy to see when you are surrounded by it and when you talk to staff and pupils. However, at the same time, you cannot simply live off that.
We need to make sure that we are giving the best offer for our pupils as well, which we now believe will include artificial intelligence.
I would encourage schools to look at CENTURY to see how it would integrate with their teaching approach, because I would challenge most people in education to find a reason why CENTURY would not improve their offering.
14th October 2021
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